That means iTunes’ current model will be due for some drastic changes, no more downloading things “to keep”. Someone asked me the other day whether I really thought all our media consumption (music, video, insert-other-media-here) would be entirely subscription based in the near future. I gave a definite YES in response.
This is something I’ve had on my mind a few years, and personally I’m of the opinion the only viable solution to the increasingly complex problem of content management and ownership -whilst maintaining the rights of artists and authors- is to consume all of our content as the result of a subscription to a media conglomerate or third party broker.
The stepping stones to this are coming, one at a time. Nokia today announced the “Comes With Music” service, which allows customers purchasing a new device, unlimited free downloads of a million songs from (initially) Universal’s music library. On top of that the downloads will remain accessible and playable after that year is up.
That’s a good first step, and it’s not as if Nokia is the only one providing subscription based music services. But what I’m talking about here is entirely subscription based models, where you don’t ever have a file to “keep”, you just obtain the media when you wish to listen/watch/interact with it. This means that to the company facilitating the transfer, you cease to be a user that has paid for X, Y and Z. Instead you gain a “role”, your role specifying what sort of access to the content library you have, and in what circumstances you can consume that media.
Added to this I very much think that we will completely give up ownership of our content. Not only will we not be able to say “yeah, I own a copy of XYZ”, to me it seems sensible that we will also not be storing our content anywhere near our physical locality.
When speaking about this topic there are always throes of despair from people that are used to owning physical copies of original content, and that’s understandable, many people have grown up collecting music or films on physical media. I imagine you’d get a very different opinion from the current generation of children with regards to the importance of owning content. The BitTorrent/YouTube generation has very little interest in collecting media when its all there, all the time anyway.
The subscription/no-ownership model is a big shift in how you see media. It also requires a great deal of trust in the stability of the companies offering the content, as well as the speed and reliability of your internet connection with regards to whichever device you are using to consume the content. But all in all I think it’s a sensible proposition, and nothing new, but thankfully companies like Nokia are not afraid to dip their toe in the water and examine new ways to deal with media to make the necessary baby-steps toward this goal.
But will the subscription model be successful? I think so, and in other markets it already is. It certainly checks all of the right boxes… To me one of the keys to the success of a new technology or any mechanism that uses technology is that it must make things easier than before (or at the very least bring with it new abilities that far outweigh any new inconveniences.) Related to this the subscription model deals with the problem of piracy in the only way possible, by making it *easier* to consume your content by paying for a subscription, than going through alternative channels.